Is It Okay to Want More of the Spirit’s Power?

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Let love be your highest goal! But you should also desire the special abilities the Spirit gives—especially the ability to prophesy.

1 Corinthians 14:

When I was a teenager, the whole discussion of spiritual gifts was a lively and controversial one. Some people in my church claimed to have powerful experiences of the Holy Spirit, often though not always associated with speaking in tongues. These people urged the rest of us to seek more of the power of the Spirit in our lives. But then there were others who insisted that we should not seek more spiritual gifts, but rather should be satisfied with and use what we had already been given. I remember being taught: "Seek the Giver, not the gifts."

But when I began to study biblical teaching on the work of the Spirit, I found something unsettling. 1 Corinthians 14:1 seemed to contradict what I had been taught. In the version we used for Bible study, this verse read: "Make love your aim, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy" (RSV). This verse seemed abundantly clear. I should be seeking spiritual gifts in addition to the Giver.

The original language of 1 Corinthians 14:1 uses two Greek imperatives that might be translated: "Keep on pursuing love; keep on being zealous for the things of the Spirit, especially that you should prophesy." (In fact, the verb translated here as "be zealous" is zelos, the root of the English word zeal.) The first imperative connects with the preceding discussion of love (1 Corinthians 13). It calls us to make love our aim, not just once in a while, but in an ongoing fashion. The second imperative urges us to be eager for spiritual empowerment. The fact that prophecy is mentioned makes it clear that this imperative does not mean only "be eager to use the gifts you have already received," but includes a desire for new gifts as well. (In a couple of days I'll say more about the meaning and value of prophecy.)

So, is it okay to desire more of the Spirit's power? Is it acceptable, even right, to desire more spiritual gifts? Yes, according to 1 Corinthians 14. But notice what takes priority . . . love, not power. Nevertheless, as we seek to love others, we should indeed be open to every bit of the Lord's power. Though we are grateful for all that God has already done through us, we are always to be eager for the new work of the Spirit as we serve others and build up the church of Jesus Christ.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Have you ever been zealous for more of God's power? When? Why? How does love for others translate into a desire for spiritual gifts? Are you open to all that God wants to do in and through you?


Thank you, Lord, for the clarity of your Word. Thank you for reminding us that we are to make love our aim, to pursue love first and foremost. Yet, as we do, we are also encouraged to be zealous for the gifts of your Spirit. If we are to love others fully, we need your help, your power, your gifts.

I ask you, dear Lord, to increase my love for those people you have put in my life. And as I focus on loving them well, I pray that you would give me all I need to serve them in your name. May I be open to the new works you would do through me, even as I seek to be a faithful steward of what you have already entrusted to me.

All praise be to you, God of love, God of power. Amen.

P.S. If you're wondering about what Paul means when he speaks about prophecy and why he values prophecy so highly, you may want to read a piece I have posted on my blog: What is Prophecy in 1 Corinthians?